GENESEO, Ill. - Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited Illinois and held a rural community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, listen to local residents talk about how USDA can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This is the fifth such forum Vilsack has done since being sworn in.

"To rebuild and revitalize rural America, President Obama and I want those affected by decisions made in Washington to participate in the process of developing innovative solutions and charting a path for communities to participate and thrive in the new 21st century economy," said Vilsack.

Vilsack's visit to Illinois today continues the USDA's listening tour through rural America. Previously, he visited Brush, Co., Portageville, Mo., Ludowici, Ga., and Harrodsburg, Ky. Tomorrow he will be in Indiana.

At today's rural community forum, Vilsack discussed how the USDA is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.‬‪

He also noted several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) efforts that are underway in Illinois and across the country including the following:‬‪‬‪

  • Providing $5.3 million for five water and waste disposal projects in Illinois, including $400,000 for the Tri-City Regional Port District, $1.1 millions for the Scott County Rural Water Coop, nearly $750,000 for the City of Barry, $980,000 for the Village of Sandoval, and $2 million for the Clay County Water Co.;
  • Committed to providing more than $6 million for Community Facilities projects in Illinois including more than $3.7 million to the City of Jacksonville for roadway construction, $1.7 million for Franklin Williamson Human Services to construct a new mental health clinic, $1 million for Shawnee Health Services to construct new dental care facility, and $86,000 for the Gibson Area Hospital to purchase new ambulance chassis;
  • Obligated more than $3.5 million to Illinois for 53 direct operating loans through the Farm Service Agency;
  • Obligated $102.4 million through the Rural Development Single Family Housing Program for 1,058 guaranteed loans and $5.9 million for 56 direct loans;
  • Increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. The state of Illinois also received approximately $1 million from USDA to help administer the program;
  • Sent additional funds to support The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Additional foods valued at more than $4.2 million have been ordered by the state for issuance to Food Banks and Community Action Agencies beginning this month through September 2009; ‬‪
  • Provided $3.6 million for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to purchase equipment.
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